Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . April 30, 2013

Outside my window . . . it is sunny and warm. Perfectly clear blue skies.

I am thinking . . . about my father-in-law, Byron, who died early Saturday morning.

I am thankful . . . for the support of friends and family during this difficult time.

In the kitchen . . . there is food provided by dear friends to keep our family fed.

I am wearing . . . the usual summer weight robe, but now I've added flip-flops.

I am creating . . . a scarf and a new yoga bag.

I am going . . . to the final visitation and then the funeral for Byron.

I am wondering . . . how I can be this tired when I slept 8 hours last night.

I am reading . . . finishing up V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, and hope to start on The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.

I am looking forward to . . . next week. I don't want to wish my life away, but I will be glad when the stresses of this week are past.

I am hearing . . . my husband making phone calls to notify groups of his father's death.

Around the house . . . we have chaos. There has been little or no time for housework, and we are bringing in things from Byron's house for sorting and cataloging. 

I am pondering . . . why feeling exhausted and wanting things I know I can't have (right now) lead me to feelings of guilt.

One of my favorite things . . . English muffins -- with butter and jam. This morning it was apricot jam.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . visitation, funeral, interment, sorting, and cleaning at Byron's house. And hopefully some rest by the weekend.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Loving Yourself through the Tough Times

My family-in-law died on Saturday morning around 1:30. We knew it was coming. We'd rushed to his beside the night/morning before thinking it was the end. We'd spent the whole day and evening with him on Friday night. We came home to get some sleep while my husband's brother stayed Friday night. 

He called us around 1:30 to say "Pop" had passed. Everything's been chaotic since then.

I've tried to care for others and do all the right things. I've fed, hugged, prayed, laughed, talked, cleaned the refrigerator and freezer at his house. I've boxed and bagged, and picked out clothes. Helped plan music. Worked on his obituary, and helped pick out the casket.

I've smiled and been nice. And I haven't cried once.

Now I'm starting to get short with people. I'm tired. I need some time for myself and a break from being the go-to girl. But it's hard to let down when there's so much to be done, and so few people to handle it all. We are a small family, and my husband has worked tirelessly for weeks, days, and hours, even now trying to put together the video for the funeral.

And I'm starting to hear those voices in my head again -- you're selfish, you're self-centered. You're being ugly and rude. The fact that I'm tired and tired of helping is proof of what a terrible person I am.

The minister's lesson yesterday was (partially) on shame and guilt. I know he meant it to helpful and clarifying. Instead I found myself physically turning inward attempting to hide from everyone and everything.

So I'm working on loving myself through the tough times. I know God is with me. I know my friends are here to help. But, friends, I need you too. I need your prayers and comments to help me get through the next few days. 

I feel ashamed to ask, but that's where I am.

Will you help me love myself through this week?

linking up with a love dare

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dr. John Byron Pennington


PENNINGTON, Dr. John Byron Age 80 of Nashville, TN. April 27, 2013. Preceded in death by his wife, Lisa Kaiser Pennington; parents, Clara Gladys Reynolds Pennington and Dempsey Filmore Pennington, Sr.; and brother, Dempsey Filmore Pennington, Jr. He is survived by sons, Dr. Van and Alan Pennington; brother, James "Corky" Pennington; grandchildren, Claire, Sam, Royce and Bryce; and special friend, Kristi Sutton. Dr. Pennington worked as an engineer for NASA, working on the Saturn, Gemini, and other space missions. He later finished his Ph.D. in real estate and finance at Ohio State in 1972 and went to teach at UTN (later to merge with TSU) where he taught until the fall of 2012. Beloved father, husband, friend and mentor. Funeral services will be conducted Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

{this moment}

John Byron Pennington 1932-2013

". . . one of the smartest/funniest/wittiest men I have ever known" 
(Jamie McPherson)

Friday, April 26, 2013


One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

I have three. One is a blessing, but three? My cup runneth over.

And it's a good thing right now. Yesterday I sent a text to all of them. We're running out of time on this earth with my father-in-law. Within minutes they had all responded.

Caroline is praying.

Linda is coming today to help me get some meals in the freezer and straighten the house a bit.

Keith came last night and helped us pick funeral music, and made my husband laugh (a true friend!).

I've known Linda and Caroline since a high school production of "Fiddler on the Roof".

I've know Keith since we were 7 years old, and he was the new kid from Maine expatriated to Tennessee. 

We've been through everything together. And I do mean everything. Identity crises, high school, college, dating, break-ups, marriage, divorce, kids, and now death of parents. 

They are the first people I call in times of trouble and sadness.

They are the friends that stick closer than a brother. 

They are the hands and feet of Jesus in my life.

And I love them more than they will ever know.

linking up with Five Minute Friday

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life Piles on Top of Life

It still catches me off guard. I still work to ignore it. I'm still confused by what's happening. 

The triggers. 

(a trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma. -- Psych Central)

A stack of photographs. I flip through them. I tell him I'll take care of them. This sorting of someone else's memorabilia is tiring and confusing.

I set the stack on my bedside table to deal with in the morning. But when the morning comes I am overwhelmed at the thought of dealing with them.

I feel pain and panic. Anxiety begins to build. I must talk about it, but it will undo all the good I've done. Change perceptions of me. I will lose everything.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain a little thought forms. None of that will happen. You've told worse things and survived. 

I sit in my therapist's office and preface this discussion with my fears and how I've tried to reconfigure them into some form of reality. As I share, it becomes clearer. Why this photo has hit me the way it has. She doesn't think it's silly. It's perfectly logical. We will deal with it in due time. 

It's like everything else in this journey. There is no scheduling, and this is not a good time to have to deal with history. But so it goes. Life piles on top of life. 

Past, present, and future compile into life. The past abuse. The present suffering of my family as we are losing my father-in-law. The future of the impending birth of my cousin's daughter. 

We are all creations of all that we experience. But more importantly, we all children of God.

linking up with imperfect prose on thursdays


The dark night of the soul is what St. John of the Cross called it. That difficulty in letting go of this world, and moving on to the next. In modern times the term has been used to describe a spiritual crisis caused by feeling separated from God. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning".

Well, it's 3 o'clock in the morning for our family. My father-in-law is in his final days. As I sit here typing and sipping my tea, my husband sits at his father's bedside wondering how many more days or hours they have left together. As he slips away from us, we worry about him. His physical self -- is he in pain? His emotional self -- does he feel our presence and love? His spiritual self -- does he feel the peace of God?

But we are also consumed by the mundane aspects of dying. Scheduling, traveling for other family members, final exams for our son, starting a new semester for our daughter. 

My husband said the other night, "Can you just tell me when it will happen?" Of course he didn't expect an answer, but this not knowing, this waiting, is so hard.

So it's perpetually 3 AM for us. And it will get darker. But I'm focusing on the rising sun, and knowing it's all temporary anyway. This dark night of the soul will pass.

linking up with Writer's Workshop

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . April 23, 2013

Outside my window . . . we are looking forward to mid-70's and sunshine today. A perfect spring day.

I am thinking . . . about my father-in-law and my husband. FIL is losing ground quickly in his fight against pulmonary fibrosis. It is a sad and difficult time for all of us.

I am thankful . . . for all the wonderful support, help, and prayers my family has received throughout my FIL's illness. It has made all the difference for of us.

In the kitchen . . . not much of late as we are grabbing a bite here and there as we can.

I am wearing . . . the usual summer weight robe, but now I've added flip-flops.

I am creating . . . a baby blanket. Shhh . . . it's a secret.

I am going . . . to see a friend for lunch tomorrow and another for lunch on Sunday.

I am wondering . . .  about the meditation seminar I attended on Saturday. I really enjoyed it and learned so very much. I want to add daily meditation to my routine, but am wondering if now is the best time.

I am reading . . . finishing up V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, and hope to start on The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.

I am looking forward to . . . seeing some folks I haven't seen in a long time later this week.

I am hearing . . . me sipping my tea.

Around the house . . . spring cleaning has not continued as I'd hoped, but I see more in the future.

I am pondering . . . the vagaries of death. We are unfortunately somewhat fixated on death and dying right now. I am praying for a peaceful transition or graduation as my FIL calls it.

One of my favorite things . . . are pinwheels spinning in the wind. I have two on my front porch that make me smile each time I see them spin, especially when the sun hits them just right creating a prism of light on my workroom walls and ceiling.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . the aforementioned lunches, a new yoga cd (thanks, dh!), finishing up my library book, and getting through the week in general.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 
cotton summer weight yarn for another project

Monday, April 22, 2013

on loving the dark places in my heart

He sees all of them. All the time. I can pretend to hide them from Him, but I'm only hiding them from myself. 

The dark places in my heart. Fear that I am not good enough. Shame at my deepest desires. Judgment of my self. Judgment of others. Lack of compassion. Envy. 

The places that bog me down when I let myself recognize their existence. That drag me farther away from Him. That make it impossible to hear His voice calling me back to Him. His voice saying, "I knew that about you already. Come back. It's okay. I'll help you. I love you in spite of yourself."

Saturday I sat on a blanket on the floor of a sanctuary I'd never entered before. I sat with my head bowed, my beads in my hands, my shawl over my lap. And I listened. I told Him I was opening my heart to Him. I told Him my deepest desires. I cried -- not long aching sobs, just simple tears sliding down my face and landing on my hands. No choking or gasping. And I don't know if they were tears of sadness, hurt, gratitude, or joy, but I don't think it matters. I cracked the shell open a little more, and let Him come in deeper. I trusted Him to not take advantage of my vulnerability.

There was no epiphany. There is no sudden change in my life. I don't know if it will happen again (I hope it will), but I do know that something shifted. I acknowledged all those dark places, and I'm still here. He didn't strike me dead. 

A man cannot be comfortable 
without his own approval.
-- Mark Twain

I'm trusting in Him to show me how to learn to approve of myself. To see who I really am. Warts and all. To love myself despite my dark places. And maybe by acknowledging those dark places, I can spread some light in them while sweeping out the dust and cobwebs. Creating more space for Him.

linking up with a love dare

On Meditation

Coming to God: First Days
by Mary Oliver

Lord, what shall I do that I
can't quiet myself?
Here is the bread, and
here is the cup,  
I can't quiet myself.
To enter the language of transformation!
To learn the importance of stillness,
with one's hands folded!
When will my eyes of rejoicing turn peaceful?
When will my joyful feet grow still?
When will my heart stop it's prancing
as over the summer grass?
Lord, I would run for you, loving the miles for your sake.
I would climb the highest tree
to be that much closer.
Lord, I will also learn to kneel down
into the world of the invisible,
the inscrutable and the everlasting.
Then I will move no more than the leaves of a tree
on a day of no wind,
bathed in light,
like the wanderer who has come at last,
and kneels in peace, done with all unnecessary things:
even motion, even words.

I went to a seminar this past weekend. "The Armchair Mystic". I learned and experienced so very much, but I need to sit with it for awhile before I can share it with you. May I recommend a few places if you're looking for more information on meditation and contemplation?

The Armchair Mystic by Fr. Mark Thibodeaux

Thirst by Mary Oliver

Peace and blessings to all of you on this day.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, April 19, 2013


I have a friend who took "jumping" pictures of her family for an entire year. Jumping at home -- at work -- on vacation -- at camp -- everywhere they went she made them jump.

Last summer she jumped from a cliff into the lake and seriously injured her back. No more jumping for her now that her back is held in place with steel rods. Still plenty of walking, but no more jumping.

I wonder if she regrets any of that jumping? Knowing her I doubt it seriously. All those pictures of her and her husband and their kids jumping for an entire year, well they're worth even more now. 

And it all makes me stop and think, what am I not doing because I'm afraid it might go wrong? 

If I go out and jump, and have a great time, does the one time it went wrong -- horribly wrong -- negate all those good jumps?

I don't think so. Because otherwise we'd all be living in padded rooms, or one of those giant bubbles. And it's really hard to interact surrounded by all that protection.

So I'm going to jump -- a little -- and worry less about the landing. Because I don't want isolation and padding anymore.

linking up with 5 Minute Friday

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Advil Is My Friend

About this time each year I begin a new morning routine. In addition to breakfast and my regular one pill, I add 3-4 more -- a Sudafed and 2 or 3 Advil. It's allergy season!

I love springtime. I love the blooming flowers and trees. The new growth of green grass and bushes. I love the house wide open, and the sound of mowers and weed-eaters wafting through the windows. 

What I don't love is the sinus headache that comes and stays. 

The first time I ever had a sinus headache, I thought I was dying. It had to be a brain tumor. That was the only thing that could possibly explain this level of pain! I mentioned, fearfully, to a co-worker this terrible pain. She asked a few questions, and then laughed and said, "Welcome to Memphis in springtime. You've got a sinus headache."

I grew up in Nashville with nary a sinus headache. Lots of sneezing and coughing and even some wheezing to be sure, but never this.

Five years later, we moved back to Nashville. The sinus headaches moved with us. Maybe it had nothing to do with Memphis. Maybe it was inevitable. I still blame Memphis.

For now each morning after I finish my tea, I get another big glass of water and knock back those pills. Occasionally I do it again in the afternoon. Thankfully this stretch is usually a short one. 

So it's either those little pills or nothing gets done in the spring. So pardon me if I rattle as I walk by.

linking up with Writer's Workshop

Hurt Child

Inspiration comes from unexpected places. Recently I was commenting on another blog. The "captcha" at the bottom was "1703 hrtchild". And I saw "hurt child". And I knew I had neglected my initial concept of dedicating this month's blogging to Child Abuse Awareness Month/Sexual Abuse Awareness Month.

I started out with good intentions. I wrote a few posts about understanding terminology, what PTSD recovery looks like, and about things survivors wish others understood about us. 

Then life got in the way. Family health struggles. A mini-vacation that failed (almost epically). Sleep deprivation. All those real life issues that can set aside best laid plans.

Hurt child.

That's really what this month of awareness is about. Millions of children around the world who fall into that category.

Hurt child.

Children all over the nation. In my state. In my city. My neighborhood. My house. Me.

Hurt child.

And I am reminded of all the belittling that was done to my pain and confusion. Often by people who claimed to love me. But I'm also reminded of the belittling I've done to others because I couldn't or wouldn't try to understand their pain.

We are all of us hurt children. Whether through abuse and/or neglect in physical, emotional, or spiritual form. We all crave acceptance and love and the tender expression of those emotions. 

Awareness is an oft used term. Awareness is about seeing and being seen. About really looking and listening. To the hurt and pain in a child's eyes. To posture. To the way a child or person talks about themselves. 

See them. See us. See me. Recovery is possible, but how much better to eliminate the abuse before it ever happens. And if it happens, to respond with awareness and love and appreciation. To build us all up to be true children of God instead of the hurt child.

linking up with imperfect prose on thursdays

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


see more at Wordless Wednesday and Wordless Wednesday Bloggers

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . April 16, 2013

Outside my window . . . it's cloudy and warm. We're expecting some rain today, which might settle some of the pollen : )

I am thinking . . . about the bombings in Boston yesterday. As everyone else is saying and feeling today, I am praying for them and praying for our nation.

I am thankful . . . for time spent with my besties over the weekend. It was just the "pick me up" my soul was needing.

In the kitchen . . . last night was chicken and veggie kabobs with a spinach-strawberry salad. 

I am wearing . . . my summer weight robe. I went through clothes yesterday and put away most of my winter things.

I am creating . . . the scarf is completed and delivered! I'm enjoying working on the baby blanket now and cut out squares on Saturday for a quilted sewing machine cover.

I am going . . . to "The Armchair Mystic" on Saturday. Haven't read the book yet, but I'm quite intrigued with the concept.

I am wondering . . .  about big things: bombings, love, anger, joy, hate, and peace.

I am reading . . . V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton. Kinsey Millhone is one of my all time favorite characters.

I am looking forward to . . . another day of seeing things as "accomplishments" instead of looking at what didn't get done.

I am hearing . . . quiet, as I type and the dogs wander the house this morning.

Around the house . . . I am hoping the spring cleaning bug stays for a while. My house sure needs it : )

I am pondering . . . the joy I find in routine, and yet how difficult it can be to establish and maintain.

One of my favorite things . . . is completing projects, and I'm very happy I completed the scarf project over the weekend. The young man who ordered it will be playing Horton in "Seussical: The Musical" in a local production in May.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . a visit with my FIL today, a meeting tomorrow, my bestie coming over on Thursday to help with some sorting and cleaning, date night on Friday, the seminar on Saturday, and worship on Sunday. Whew -- that's a full week for me.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Things to Accomplish List

It's been one of those days. No, not one of those days, but one of those days. It's been a good one. 

I made a "want to accomplish" list instead of a "to-do" list. I changed my attitude about determining what to do and how to judge if I've done "enough".

I set my alarm, and woke up before it went off -- smiling. I remembered that I wanted to try something new this morning -- Tibetan Rites. I could only do 5 or 10 of each but I did it, and patted myself on the back and said, "good job" to myself.

Then I did my usual routine of tea, computer, blog, and Bible devotional time. After those items were "accomplished" (my new word), I headed to the bedroom and started sorting through clothes and shoes for a collection we are taking up at church. While I was at it, I thoroughly vacuumed the bedroom and did some dusting as well.

Laundry, my table cleared, the refrigerator cleaned out, the kitchen cleaned, odds and ends put away, and a stack of mail sorted through. After lunch there was time for reading and crocheting. Then marinating the chicken and cutting up veggies for grilled kabobs. 

So it's been one of those days, because I shifted my focus to what I'd accomplish instead of what I thought I needed to do. And that made a huge difference.

linking up with Just Write

How to Love Yourself Even When You Aren't Lovable

I don't do well with lack of sleep. I know some people can just power through it, or caffeinate themselves through it. Not me. I hit the wall and get cranky, moody, and weepy. My eyes begin to burn, and my throat gets sore and my voice gets raspy. I become incredibly paranoid.

That's what happened this past weekend. And unfortunately I took a lot of it out on my husband. The one I wrote about last week. What a difference a few days, and a lack of sleep can make!

There's a natural inclination in my being to see everything as black and white -- people are good or bad -- no middle ground. That's a harsh judgment on others, and perhaps, an even harsher judgment on myself. 

So yesterday I stepped back from the past few days and acknowledged I had behaved in a less than loving way. I accepted that sometimes (especially when sleep deprived) my husband and I won't necessarily see everything exactly the same way -- but that doesn't make either of us "bad people". 

I decided to apologize to him. To take ownership of my mistakes, without deeming myself an utter failure, undeserving of love. I gave myself the opportunity to make mistakes, and bounce back from them.

Another step toward learning to love myself as God loves me.

linking up with a love dare

Ham and Cheese Quiche

Nothing is as lovely as pulling a lovely quiche out of the oven for dinner. I like this recipe because I always have the ingredients on hand (or easy substitutions). You can make it with any meat/cheese combo you have -- bacon and artisan cheese is a lovely combo as well.

1 partially baked deep-dish pie crust
1 small can Hormel ham, drained and shredded
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups milk (I used fat-free)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1 1/4 cups (6 oz.) grated Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake empty pie shell for 10 min. Place pie shell on cookie sheet. Reset oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle ham over the bottom of the pie shell. Combine the eggs, milk and spices in a bowl and beat to mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the cheese over the ham and ladle the custard over all. Bake for 15 minutes at 425; then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 min more, or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serves 6.

Serve with a nice green salad or fruit cup. The leftovers (if you have any) heat in the microwave for a nice breakfast or lunch the next day.

Happy eating!

linking up with Made by You Monday

Sunday, April 14, 2013

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, April 12, 2013


We're here. We're home. Not where I expected to be today. I expected to be driving back from Gulf Shores. Well actually wherever we had stayed last night on our way home from Gulf Shores.

Instead we got here yesterday afternoon, because we left early from Gulf Shores because my father-in-law took a turn for the worse, and my husband just needed to be back here.

Here is good because it's home, and comfortable, and I have everything of mine easily accessible.

But there was good too. There were fewer "have-to's" and "need to's". And there was a beach. With sand, and waves, and sun, and wind. Happy children playing. Older couples holding hands and walking through the waves together. And there was the sand castle. The one my husband and I built together. The first sand castle I'd ever built. 

I brought all those pictures and memories with me here, to help me get through what's coming here. 

So here is good because it's home, and it's good because I brought all the memories back with me.

linking up with five minute friday

Thursday, April 11, 2013

imperfect prose on thursdays: standing firm

There are moments in marriage that are just so tough. Like watching my husband on the phone with his father, trying to get him to agree to 24/7 care in his home. Because he is dying, and we don't want him to die alone.

Hearing my husband yell into the phone, "You're not doing fine, dad! Your not!" And watching him break down sobbing because his father is making it so difficult to do this one small thing for him.

Watching my husband calm himself as his father finally agrees . . . at least temporarily. And then sitting on the sofa, rubbing his back, staring out at the waves on the beach, and knowing that this brief get away is going to end earlier than expected, because he needs to be back at home with his dad.

So we pack everything up, and as he loads the car, I stand on the balcony looking down at the beach as the waves crash, while a storm moves in, and I see the sand castle we built that morning still standing firm in the face of wind and waves. I cry at the thought of leaving it behind. Knowing all the while that it remains in my mind as a picture of this life, this marriage, this husband of mine -- standing firm in the face of wind and waves crashing all around us.

linking up with imperfect prose on thursdays and Write on Edge

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . April 9, 2013

Outside my window . . . is a beautiful view of white beaches and surf. Dh and I are in Gulf Shores for a few days, and loving it.

I am thinking . . . my FIL. His health is continuing to decline. We snuck away for a few days to recharge our batteries so we will be better able to care for him.

I am thankful . . . to be in this lovely place with my dh. The problems at home haven't gone away, but it is a great blessing to have a little break, some rest, and soak up some rays!

In the kitchen . . . NOT ME. I'm off kitchen duty for the week and it's quite nice to be served instead of serving.

I am wearing . . . casual beach attire. Capris and t-shirts, or bathing suit and coverup. 

I am creating . . . finishing up the scarf and then got a baby blanket to finish.

I am going . . . to sit here with my tea for a bit and then maybe take a walk on the beach.

I am wondering . . .  how little I can get away with doing today.

I am reading . . . A Cast of Killers by Sidney Kirkpatrick. I saw this on a friend's Facebook page and was intrigued. I love old Hollywood stories, and this is about an unsolved murder from 1922.

I am looking forward to . . . another afternoon of lazing on beach with my book.

I am hearing . . . dh chatter about his work emails. He always checks them when we're on vacation so he doesn't get slammed when we get home.

Around the house . . . dd is holding down the fort. She is taking care of the dogs, and checking on FIL regularly.

I am pondering . . . very little right now. I'm letting my "ponderer" take a break for vacation.

One of my favorite things . . . is the beach. We didn't "do" the beach when I was growing up. I started going to the beach with friends in high school and college, but dh is the one who has helped me really appreciate it. There is such a calming effect from just sitting on the beach with a good book and letting the sound of the waves and wind wash away the stress.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . enjoying Gulf Shores until we head home this weekend. Then a fun day with my besties on Saturday.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 
it's so cool having a my own photographer
photo by dh (Alan Pennington)

Monday, April 8, 2013


My husband and I have our best conversations while driving or walking. Yesterday we spent most of the day driving from Atlanta to Gulf Shores, AL. We're taking a few days off just for us.

Unexpectedly my husband asked if I'd like him to tell me his favorite things about me. Of course I would -- I was just hoping they would be good things!

He listed off a variety of things: my faith, my intellect, my perseverance, my cooking skills, and my willingness to feed people whenever he asks me to.

My immediate reaction was to deny these attributes, or explain, or negate. Instead I told myself to be still and listen. Really hear what he was saying. As I worked to focus on his perception of me I felt pulled to start creating a complimentary list for him in my head. But again, I stopped myself. I listened to the positive things he sees in me. I tried on a few of those compliments just to see how they felt, and whether or not I felt that they fit. 

It's a difficult thing for me to say, and harder still to write, but he made some good points. And they were probably accurate. 

I was raised in an environment that told me not to "take pride" in myself for who I was. Don't think too highly of yourself or it will be your downfall. Add to that the spectre of abuse, and the impact that had on my self-esteem, and you begin to get a picture of how I developed this self-loathing that I fight daily.

So I'm not writing this post to proclaim how wonderful I am to you. I guess I'm writing this post as a continuation of the love letter I wrote to my body. It's a reminder to me that I am created by God -- all of me. And it would be pretty insulting to God to negate the gifts He's given to me. 

linking up to a love dare

Hurricane Oatmeal Cake

Dh asked me to make a treat for him to take to his grad class on Saturday. I love this cake, but have no self-control when it's in the house. It's best if I make it and send it away. I got one piece, which is plenty (even though I'd love to sit down with the whole cake and a fork!).

FYI, I have no idea how it got this name.

1 cup oatmeal
1 1/4 cups boiling water
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine oatmeal and boiling water; set aside. Beat together eggs, sugars and oil until blended. Add flour, soda, salt and cinnamon; add oatmeal mixture. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake at 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

Mix together 1 cup coconut, 1 cup brown sugar, 6 tablespoons melted butter, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, and 1/4 cup evaporated milk until moist. Spread over cake; broil until topping is light brown and crunchy -- about 2 minutes.

Serves 20-24.

linking up with Made by You Monday

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Helping Others Learn to Help

Today I am going to be part of a presentation to help counselors in training understand a little more about PTSD from the survivors perspective. They provided me with a list of questions, so I'm sharing them, along with my answers, here. 

1. How did diagnosis go for you?

My husband and I went into counseling together because we didn't seem to be connecting well. He really wanted to talk to someone. I didn't. After a few initial sessions, the counselor asked to meet with me alone for a few sessions. We talked about an assault that occurred in college. I felt my husband and I had dealt with it, but it became obvious it was still causing disturbances for me. I had begun having intrusive thoughts about the episode, and nightmares that were difficult to describe. I became anxious and lightheaded on my way to counseling sessions. Eventually I recalled an episode from my childhood that I had never told anyone about, and that opened the door for a diagnosis of PTSD and an understanding that I had been abused as a child, and re-victimized as an adult. I found a certain amount of comfort in having a specific diagnosis, because it removed the personal stigma of "just being crazy", and replaced it with options for treatment and hope for recovery.

2. How was treatment for you?

I've seen 2 different counselors over the course of my diagnosis and treatment. Initially I began with a marriage and family therapist. He used cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help me begin to recognize the abuse for what it was, and encouraged me to journal. In the beginning about all I could do was write, and then bring the work to him. He would read through my journaling and then ask me questions to open discussion of the things I had written about. Later I moved to a specialist in PTSD and continued with CBT, but also added EMDR in an effort to address the emotional responses I was having in addressing the repressed memories.

3. Can you tell us a little about how EMDR works from a client perspective?

In my sessions, an episode is chosen. We determine a visual to represent the episode, and then identify what the negative belief is that I currently hold, then we establish the positive belief I would like to have. There are two scales that are used to determine where I am -- one determines how truthful I believe the positive belief to be, and the other identifies how disturbed I am by the memory we are working on. Bilateral stimulation is used, which in my case means that my therapist pats my hands while I allow the episode to play out in my head. The room is silent and my eyes are closed during this phase. After a certain amount of time (I think around 2 minutes?) she stops patting and slides her hands from mine, and I begin to recount what I saw play out in my head. She takes extensive notes, and when I finish, picks a new location in the memory as the beginning point, then we begin the process again. We may do this 2-4 times in 90 minute session. She checks in with me at least twice to see if my answers have changed on the two scales. Generally what happens is as the belief in the positive message increases the disturbance decreases. Once we have completed the EMDR itself, we spend the remaining portion of the session processing the information and doing relaxation exercises.

4. What were some turning points in your treatment?

I remember when I began seeing the first therapist, he asked me how I had felt before I began counseling and experiencing the panic, disturbing dreams, etc. I answered that I felt afraid. He replied, "Not all the time?" And I said yes, most of the time. I had never told anyone about these feelings, and never fully acknowledge them to myself until that moment. When I told him about the first memory of abuse (which I couldn't identify as abuse, but rather as something terrible I had done), I recounted the episode to him with my eyes closed. When I finished, I peeked a look at him, and asked if he believed me. He assured me did, and then I ask why he believed me. He answered with a question -- why wouldn't he believe me? Both of those sessions help me recognize that this was a safe environment to begin to really look at my past.
When I changed therapists, I remember at the initial meeting with the specialist, after I had told her, what I call, "the quick and dirty" version, she said she believed she could help me. That "believe" was wonderful to hear. She didn't say she thought or hoped she could help, but rather she believed she could help me. Early on in my work with her, she was helping me to understand that simply size difference between a child and an adult was scary in and of itself. She asked me to stand up and she stood and faced me. We discussed that we were essentially the same size and she verified that I did not feel afraid in the situation. Then she stepped up into her chair, now towering over me. I immediately fell onto the couch, cowering in a fetal position. That visceral reaction helped me to understand that these memories were true, and just how much terror I was holding inside.

5. What are some things outside of therapy that have helped in healing?

I tried to reclaim portions of my childhood. I got my self a stuffed animal, Yolie, which led to other stuffed animals. I started coloring as a safe creative outlet. I learned more about prayer beads, and began making them. Having something concrete to hold on to when the panic started was very helpful in keeping me grounded in the present. For our 25th anniversary my husband asked me to learn to scuba dive, and I did! Every positive step forward has helped me in my healing path.